Most men of "a certain age," are usually pretty happy to let their birthdays slide by unnoticed. And when they're in the youth-oriented world of popular music, even more so.
Not Jim Dawson.
This brilliant, if under-recognized singer/songwriter, makes his birthdays a public affair. On Monday, you might wish to find this out for yourself. At something called "Jim Dawson's *ACTUAL BIRTHDAY* Birthday Bash." See him live, wish him well, dig his melodic, incisive, urban portraits, all happening at Frank's Steaks.
"It's my new strategy" said Dawson, a funny, loquacious guy, about playing at such an atypical venue. "I find a classy restaurant, a place not necessarily known for its music, and I bring in my 'people,' usually 40 or 50 fans. I do this in Manhattan, too, and it's working nicely. Plus, I should mention that the food at Frank's is superb."
He's been around, Dawson, and not just geographically. His inner and outer journeys have been circuitous. It's been a 'trip,' as they use to say in the '60s and '70s.
Discovered by legendary WNEW (now WFUV) deejay, Pete Fornatale, Dawson burst onto the singer/songwriter scene, just as it, and the '70s, began. His first album, "Songman," got a great deal of airplay on WNEW and other stations. It was followed by "You'll Never Be Lonely With Me," which a number of discerning listeners (including this one), think of as Dawson's masterpiece. Full of gorgeous melodies, simple, but evocative arrangements and musical snapshots of everything from Mother Earth to that of a desperate streetwalker ("Stephanie"), "Lonely" also scored big on the radio.
After that, there were ups and downs.
"I left my first label (Kama Sutra) for RCA, where I made several more records, but things didn't quite click over there," said Dawson, whose been-there-done-that humor has clearly served him well in the business they call show.
He's hardly been resting on his laurels since the 70s, however. He's gigged relentlessly, had a hit record in Germany, worked with greats like Phoebe Snow and Dr. John (in connection with the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy group) and then there's the jingle gigs that have helped pay the bills.
The money he got paid was nice. But, as for the material they provided Dawson? They're priceless.
"I did a dog food commercial once," he said. "I can't really mention the brand, because I think they're still in business. But after I did what I thought was a good take, the producer got on the mic and said, 'Hey Jim, not bad. But next time, do you think you can do it more from the dog's perspective?'"
And, understandably, he hoots with laughter.
Although he's got a pretty sophisticated recording set-up in his Manhattan apartment, Dawson is still grappling with the notion of committing any more of his songs to tape. Or whatever they call it now.
"I've got about 40 new tunes at this point. But I've grown kind of allergic to the recording process as I've gotten older. Recording is like capturing a free-roaming animal to me, now. I don't know if I believe in it. I am toying with taping some of my live shows, however. I love the energy that a crowd gives you when you're playing live. So maybe, making a live record of these new songs could be a good compromise."
He laughs again at this notion. As if this whole enterprise, the gig, the recording, might make a good birthday present to himself. And he laughs again, when you mention this. As if it just might.
INFO: Jim Dawson will be at Frank's Steaks on Monday starting at 7 p.m. For reservations and information, call (718) 622-1208. To buy Jim's CDs or other merchandise, go to www.jimdawson.com.